The Pearl

 

The victory of Alexander Van der Bellen over Norbert Hofer in the Austrian presidential election was greeted with relief by leading lights in the EU political establishment and many parts of the media. A seemingly unstoppable tide favouring right wing populists had been turned back by a candidate described as left leaning.

Left leaning is political code for liberal and Bellen’s Green credentials confirmed his place on the bourgeois political spectrum. Hofer, in turn, was regularly described as “far right”, political code for racist nationalist tending towards fascism.

The irony is the very establishment that greeted, indeed celebrated, Hofer’s defeat is the EU nomenclature, a body united by the aim of constructing a pan-European corporate state. Fascism has moved on in its service to capitalism: no more Nuremburg Rallies, uniforms and jackboots, rather it’s sharp suits and soft shoes.

To be clear, fascism is the ideology of the corporate state, a comprehensive state that deals with all aspects of economic, social and political life in a unitary manner. It is the guarantor of free markets and workers’ rights, allowing for no contradiction.

Political elites have been taking something of a beating through 2016 as people have used their votes to signal their mounting discontent. What this reflects is workers as a class in itself reacting against the austerity imposed since the 2008 financial crash.

There’s a generalised awareness that things aren’t as they might be, but the atomized nature of society means people identify specific symptoms – national sovereignty, immigration, out of touch politicians etc., as the problem. So, that’s what they vote on.

As yet workers are not united as a class for itself, acting collectively in their common best interest, identifying the source of the symptoms, capitalism. Indeed, anything more radical than left leaning – Van der Bellen, Bernie Saunders, Jeremy Corbyn – has a collective deaf ear turned towards it.

Except in the fantastic political world of the Daily Mail, Marxists exert little of no influence in society. They do not run the BBC, or the Labour Party, or the Trade Unions, although many think the opposite which shows the Mail has more clout than the socialist press.

Until workers act as a class for itself, accept responsibility for confronting the actuality of capitalism and then transcending it to achieve socialism, then voting will change little. Whichever way the EU referendum had gone, capitalism was still in charge. The same with Trump, with Van der Bullen, with the recent vote in Italy.

For the moment Marxists can be little more than the irritating grit in the capitalist oyster until the working class decides the time is right to take the plunge and prise the pearl of socialism from the empty shell of capitalism.

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Fidel Castro

 

Today brings the interment of Fidel Castro’s ashes following the triumph of the urn around Cuba. Those who mourned and those who celebrated his death had one point of agreement, that Castro’s legacy is socialism.

As has been repeatedly stated in the media, Castro denied communism in the early days of the revolution. It was in the face of US hostility that he turned to the Soviet Union and publicly embraced Marxism/Leninism.

As history shows he had allied himself with losing side in the Cold War, a choice that left Cuba bankrupt and isolated by America’s insistence on maintaining the economic blockade. So, is Cuba a bastion of socialism defying its imperialist near neighbour?

From 1st January 1959 when the 26th July Movement vanquished the Batista regime and entered Havana there have been significant advances. The mafia economy based on gambling and prostitution was swept away.

Unfortunately, that removed lucrative sources of income and the aggressive opposition of the USA pushed Castro towards Moscow. In 1960, the USSR agreed to buy Cuban sugar at a high price. This was followed by interest free loans that Castro hoped would finance development.

This was merely a loss leader, as the USSR soon began imposing 2.5% interest on the loans and demanding that 80% of any aid money was spent on commodities from the Soviet Union. These were priced at between 10% and 50% more than equivalents on western markets.

There followed economic plans, mainly centred around sugar, with increased production targets that were never met. By the 1970s the plans had failed leaving a $6 billion debt to the USSR. At the same time Soviet Union support for Cuba was running at approximately $3 million a day.

Undoubtedly, the health and education systems developed in Cuba were exemplary, but both were, and remain, expensive, even more so with the demise of the USSR and its financial aid. The Cuban economy inevitably struggled.

Tourism has become a major source of income with the added benefit that Cuba is so well visited it has become very difficult for the USA to maintain the island’s pariah status. An ironic effect of tourism has been the return of prostitution, an indication of dire economic circumstances.

Cuba may continue to declare itself socialist, no doubt this will be the proclaimed legacy of Fidel. Except Cuba is not socialist, it is economically, and therefore socially, divided. Since the mid-1990s holding hard currency has been legal, placing those few Cubans who’ve acquired it in a different class to the rest.

The sources of that hard currency are dubiously obscure. But what exacerbates the situation is that most Cubans receive their rations via ration cards while the “comandantes” such as Fidel and brother Raul were not so constrained.

Foreign firms hiring Cuban labour do not pay their workers directly, paying the state instead. The workers themselves receive only a portion of those payments. This is hardly socialism, but rather the arrangements of capitalism.

It may well be the Fidel and his comrades sincerely thought they could build socialism in Cuba, there may be those who consider Cuba to be in some sort of transitory state on the way to socialism. However, the economic arrangements are purely capitalist with the state acting as a capitalist state whatever it intends or believes about itself.

China has become the new sugar-daddy without whose patronage Cuba would have become utterly bankrupt and the regime passed away long before Fidel. To insist otherwise is to deny reality, turning socialism into a faith celebrating its Messiahs while the workers remain exploited.

The progression of the relic around Cuba is over. It seems that Fidel has asked that no memorial be erected in his honour. So now is the time to realise there are no single country easy routes to socialism, nor can it be delivered by inspired leaders. It is for workers to accept responsibility for acting on their own behalf.

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Children in Need

 

 

Friday 18th November was “Children in Need”, the five and a half hours the BBC devotes to its annual fund- raising event, what used to be called a telethon. Celebrity celebrating its own self-importance and collective moral conscience.

It would not be popular to take issue with such an event. As was written in the “Radio Times for that day, “…there’s really no excuse for forgetting what this is all about – raising money for a worthy cause.”

After all it’s for children who are sick, deprived, who are carers for invalid parents, whom life has treated badly. There can be no doubt whatsoever that many, many children, here and abroad, exist in such desperate circumstances.

The question, however, is should disadvantaged children have to depend on charity. However glitzy it now is this remains essentially a hangover from the harsh days of Victorian capitalism, when the great and the good salved their consciences through dispensing alms to the deserving poor.

By focusing on children there can be no question as to their being deserving and as an institution its origins are not that far removed from Victorian times. “Children in Need” is the present incarnation of an appeal begun in the early days of the BBC.

There is an irony in the mascot, Pudsey bear, being one-eyed. There is not a clear vision as to why the event is still needed. Having been repeated over decades it obviously is not dealing with the central issue, that there are children having to cope with dreadful circumstances that society generally ignores apart from one day a year.

No one, celebrity or otherwise, publicly asks the question, “Why does society not meet the needs of all its children?” The answer is that those children are not profitable. In a system which is driven by the profit motive, channelling significant wealth to those children would mean subtracting it from the sum total of profits.

As a charity appeal solicits money from the general population, it is collected from the purses and wallets of workers whose salaries and wages have already been paid out and therefore accounted for by the economics of capitalism. It is not a further drain on potential profit.

What “Children in Need” does positively demonstrate is that the working class has a social conscience, that human beings are not just driven by personal greed and self-interest. It also shows an intrinsic understanding that people, children or adults, have different needs that should be catered for, which can be met according to the ability to contribute.

Put simply, it is a demonstration of humanity as social, co-operative beings. If this was to be translated into establishing socialism, whereby the principle of from each according to ability, to each according to need was the norm, there would be no requirement for charity.

“Children in Need” has taken place exactly a week before “Black Friday” when the worst of capitalism is manifested through frenzied consumption. The amounts of money involved will make the funds raised by Pudsey seem miniscule in comparison. Why turn a blind eye to this?

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Playing the Trump Card

 

 

There is an episode of “The Simpsons” in which Homer decides he hates dealing with the household garbage. “Let someone else do it!” becomes not only his plaintive cry, but also his slogan when he runs for mayor.

The whole of Springfield rallies to his support, each individual with some task or burden he would rather be relieved of, passing responsibility to someone else. Inevitable, Homer is not up to fulfilling the general aspiration and the garbage becomes an even bigger problem.

It is tempting to see in this cartoon an allegory of the rise to presidential power of Donald Trump. However, it is an illustration of a more profound problem with democracy wherever it presently operates.

For the inhabitants of Springfield read the working class, that vast majority of the population who create all society’s wealth without control over the means of production, indeed without control of their own labour power, having to sell it below the value it creates in order to live.

Theoretically, workers could address the problem of capitalism by exercising their collective political power. So, why does this not happen. Indeed, socialists (actual ones that is, not the pale imitation Labour Party ones) standing in elections receive derisory numbers of votes.

The problem is that to make such a profound collective change requires each individual to recognise, act and accept the consequences of the subsequent responsibilities creating a socialist society demands.

Instead, come election time and a number of Homers standing for the various parties effectively say to the voters, “Problems with the economy and society…let someone else deal with them.” Workers then buy into one or other of the nostrums being offered and mark their Xs on the ballot paper.

X is, of course, the signature of the illiterate, and it is political illiteracy that blights workers’ lives. However, illiteracy is not a congenital condition, nor is it a sign of stupidity. It is overcome through learning, by becoming literate, by becoming responsible not dependent.

There are serious social and economic problems that are beyond capitalism to solve. If workers want better then they will have to pursue the socialist alternative on their own behalf. There is no one who can or will do it for them.

In moments of crisis mainstream politics can become unappealing, but if people are not ready to take up the task of achieving socialism, capitalism can play its (T)trump card, the maverick who appears to be anti-establishment, the voice of the dispossessed and ignored – Trump in the USA, UKIP in Britain.

Nothing will change in the sense capitalism will be preserved for another stretch of time. If the cost is immigration controls, stronger borders, or on-going wars and terrorism, then so be it. For the working class, though, it’s business as usual and that business is capitalist.

Let someone else do it? That’s garbage!

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Re-Marx

 

 

Previously this blog was informed by a Marxist Leninist outlook. However, after a period of fundamental reflection, this has been found to be in error. The catalyst for this reassessment was the EU referendum.

Phrases such as rebuilding Britain, working class nationalism, reclaiming British sovereignty, amongst others, were used to justify campaigning for a “leave vote” by workers. The free movement of labour became equated with the free movement of capital, which all too readily gave a socialistic gloss to migration/immigration controls.

Marx’s support for nationalist movements in such as Poland was used to justify a communist nationalism, an oxymoron if ever there was one. Historical context was set aside and, consequently, so was the defining principle that workers have no country: workers of the world unite.

As previous postings reflected a position no longer subscribed too they have been removed. This is not to pretend they were never written, but to allow for a complete reorientation for the blog. It will mean questionable consistency as an attempt is made to reflect on Marxism and what it means for the future.

What has become apparent once freed from having to adhere to and justify a particular political party line is just how feeble the influence of Marxism is in Britain, in the world. At a time when increasing numbers are disillusioned with politics and the effects of crisis capitalism, where is the distinctive and influential Marxist voice?

Instead, anti-establishment attitudes have travelled the dangerous path towards authoritarian, demagogic movements and individuals – UKIP, Farage, Trump and Brexit. If those Marxist Leninist groups and parties who advocated leaving the EU are claiming victory they are seriously self-deluded. It has been the triumph of little Britishers and the fear of foreigners.

This is not to suggest advocacy of a pro-EU vote. No matter which way the referendum had gone capitalism remained unchanged. The only useful vote was a spoiled one, a refusal to play the capitalist political game.

Columns of the socialist/communist press are largely self-justifying of whichever political line is pursued, with any debate being more often of a distinctly esoteric nature. The strop has been used to hone Ockham’s razor for the slicing and dicing of Marxism until it takes on whichever flavour suits the particular taste.

A hundred years after the Russian Revolution, thirty years after its final collapse, the terms Leninist, Stalinist, Trotskyist are still bandied around as badges of association, as labels of condemnation. While the working class struggles on paying little or no heed to any of it.

There is, of course, no time limit on when socialism can be achieved, just as there is no blue (should that be RED) print for what it will look like. It is the intention that this blog will make its own miniscule contribution to, hopefully, the development of a Marxism of significance.

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Site Redevelopment

This blog has had it’s previous posts removed. It is being redeveloped and new posts will be appearing soon.

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